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A bird in the hand

Dec 13, 2019 | REAL|People

Sugarbird’s focus on recycling and sustainability is as refreshing as its gin

Consumer brands have a lot of responsibility resting on their shoulders to reduce their impact on the planet and rethink how they package, distribute and design their products. South African artisanal gin brand Sugarbird Gin is re-evaluating their approach as their popular Mini Gin Bottle range replaces glass packaging with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles.

For environmentally and socially conscious business owners, Nzeka Biyela and Rob Heyns, integrating sustainability thinking into their operations was imperative. After months of in-depth research and consultation with the PET Plastic Recycling Company (PETCO), they discovered that biodegradable plastics take a long time to break down and only under specific conditions in specialised facilities – not readily available in South Africa. And compostable bottles aren’t safe for alcoholic beverages. Also, recycled PET bottles present a greater opportunity for recycling and reuse, which made the switch worthwhile.

PET can also be recycled multiple times into new bottles, which means that less waste goes to overburdened landfills. Sugarbird Gin’s circular economy and environmentally beneficial #DayOneForChange initiative empowers consumers to recycle responsibly. By making recycling easy and directly accessible by setting up its own Sugarbird Gin recycling bins across South Africa where the recycled PET will either become new Mini Gin Bottles or be down-cycled into recycled PET products, Sugarbird is enabling consumers to do their bit.

For the repurposed products, it has partnered with young South African artists, Keith Vlahakis, Ruschka Du Toit Gird, and Boineelo Modise to create a unique collection of recycled PET felt bags made by Uzwelo Bags – a social enterprise based in KwaZulu-Natal that trains and uplifts women in KwaZulu-Natal communities.

“Businesses have an important role to play in creating sustainable brands and generating new value for society. We cannot continue in a linear system that consumes and disposes of packaging. The move to a circular economy that reuses and repurposes materials has become critical,” says Biyela.

Sugarbird Gin Mini Bottles are available at all major retailers in South Africa, and the recommended selling price starts at R39.00

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